Larkin Poe’s Self Made Man is intricate rock and roll, with country pop, metal, and any other style that’s caught their ear, all slotting in perfectly, like a puzzle with pieces so small, you can’t even see the seams. But the beauty of it is that for all of its complexity, the album sounds easy, mostly because just about every song is built upon the most basic of musical tools, the hand clap. That universal underpinning makes the tracks resonate because they’re coming from a place we all understand, assuming, as always, you’re not the subject of the Buddhist koan that asks about one hand clapping.
Larkin Poe is sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell. They’re the whole band, with occasional guest appearances from outsiders. They even produce their own records; the result is an idiosyncratic sound that’s tough to pin down, except that their songs feature lots of lap steel and slide, often deployed in new and interesting ways. But mostly what makes this such a great album is how the two build up from bare bones beats, layering and, most likely, removing instruments, until suddenly there’s an incredible song just waiting to be heard.
The title track begins with a hi-hat keeping the time, almost like a heart monitor showing a patient coming to life. Distorted guitars crash into a riff that feels pulled from Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” Rebecca’s vocals start, Megan chanting behind her, the song practically metal. But the chorus, “Lord, have mercy, I’m a self-made-man,” is pure pop country. In a different timeline, Shania Twain might work this into a radio hit. But luckily for us, we get to hear this true version, with a dirty slide line that stops the song with a whip crack, sounding like perhaps yet another timeline where Jimmy Page and Duane Allman had somehow managed to have a child together.
Larkin Poe rip through genres, not like they’re trying to tick off boxes, but more like they’re just channeling music. “Every Bird That Flies” is rhythm and blues with a Middle Eastern lap steel right out of Derek Trucks’ playbook. But where Trucks might dig into the riffs and conduct a thorough excavation, Larkin Poe is all about the song and not about the jam. “Scorpion” is driving with a melody recalling Blondie’s “Call Me,” but with Megan’s beautiful lap steel powering the tune, almost like an electric current. “God Moves on the Water,” a Blind Willie Johnson song, is country gospel, sounding authentic except for its modern production, which lets you hear every backing vocal and another classic Megan lap steel riff that careens through the song as if possessed by a holy spirit.
You hear something new and cool every time you play Self Made Man. It’s truly impressive how Larkin Poe achieves this while also creating an album that sounds natural. They’re not throwing tricks and licks at the listener; they’re building tricks and licks into sturdy, captivating songs. Larkin Poe make it sound easy as easy as bringing your hands together, but really it’s as hard as clapping with one hand.
The Review: 9.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Every Bird That Flies
– God Moves on the Water
– Ex Con
– She’s A Self Made Man
The Big Hit
– She’s A Self Made Man
Review by Steven Ovadia